The Screaming Skull (1973)

Article 3974 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-9-2012
Directed by Gloria Monty
Featuring Vincent Gardenia, Carrie Nye, David McCallum
Country: USA
What it is: Ghost story

An expert on craniology is estranged from his wife, but he fears to leave her because her money is what pays for his experiments. Then, using an idea given to him by his brother, he decides to do away with her in a way that will leave no evidence. But the spirits of those who die do not always rest easy…

I’ve not read the story by Frances Marion Crawford that serves as the basis for both this and the 1958 movie of the same name (though I should point out that the earlier movie does not officially credit the source), but I’m pretty sure at least one of them took liberties with the original story. However, both of them do deal with a spirit of the dead personified as a screaming skull. Personally, I’m glad to see the GASLIGHT plotline used in the earlier movie absent from this one, but I’m afraid neither one of these versions do much for me. At least part of the problem is that the first half of this movie does such a connect-the-dots job of setting up its story that you get bored waiting around for the scientist to actually kill his wife; you know he’s going to do it, you know how he’s going to do it, and you’re just waiting for him to get on with it. The second half is a little better, though it’s hardly unpredictable, but the whole “vengeance from the grave” story just never comes to life here. Furthermore, I found the contrast between the acting styles employed by David McCallum and Vincent Gardenia to be jarring; it’s hard to believe the characters are in the same movie, much less brothers. In the end, I just found this one rather dull.


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